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Purdue guard Ronnie Johnson picks up a loose ball in front of Nebraska’s Leslee Smith in the second half. Johnson scored 14 in the Boilers’ win.

Purdue fights for first Big Ten win

– Purdue’s first Big Ten victory of the season didn’t come easily.

The Boilermakers defeated Nebraska 70-65 Sunday in front of 9,182 at Mackey Arena, even though they were never able to take full control in the opening half and endured nine second-half turnovers.

“We fought hard, I thought, and that’s what we need to do every game,” Purdue guard Ronnie Johnson said. “We stayed composed. We need to continue to keep doing that and we will get more wins.”

Sunday’s victory looked in doubt with 6:43 to play as Nebraska grabbed a 58-55 lead after Tai Webster turned Purdue’s eighth turnover of the second half into a breakaway layup, and Terran Petteway sank one of two free throws.

But after that, the Boilermakers (11-5, 1-2) held the Cornhuskers (8-8, 0-4) scoreless for the next 5 1/2 minutes as they built a 64-58 lead.

Johnson got things going by knocking down a jumper then sinking two free throws for a 59-58 lead with 5:44 to play.

A.J. Hammons then added a jumper, Sterling Carter made a layup and Johnson added another free throw to compete the 9-0 run that sealed the win.

“We just weren’t consistent in finishing in the first half,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said. “I thought we should have had a better lead. And in the second half, we didn’t take care of the basketball, and we had some breakdowns.

“I always talk about as a player and a team, it’s effort and results. I didn’t like the results until the end. I thought we played our best basketball at the end of the game.”

Hammons finished with 18 points for Purdue, and Johnson added 14.

The Boilermakers also got 28 points from their bench, with Sterling Carter and Kendall Stephens each scoring eight.

Purdue went 24 for 52 from the floor and survived making 17 of 28 free throws, because nine of the free throws the Boilermakers connected on were in the final six minutes.

Petteway finished with 19 points for Nebraska, and Ray Gallegos and Deverell Biggs each scored 10.

Nebraska shot 24 of 58, and the Cornhuskers were able to turn the nine second-half turnovers into only nine points. They also couldn’t take advantage of having an 11-4 edge in second-chance points.

“At the end of the day, I think our lack of discipline, just executing things, is what cost us the game,” Nebraska coach Tim Miles said.

The Boilermakers could never make the big run to put the Cornhuskers away.

Purdue never had more than a five-point lead in the first half, and it led by six three times at the start of the second half before falling behind by 3 with just less than 7 minutes to play before rallying for the win.

“I think we had good spurts, and we had bad spurts,” Painter said. “We just didn’t have that consistency. We couldn’t score and get stops. We didn’t have a good game defensively, until the last six, seven minutes of the game.

“That is important.”

Purdue had a week to prepare for Sunday’s game after dropping its first two conference games.

The Boilermakers will now play three more conference games in the next nine days, starting with a trip to No. 23 Illinois on Wednesday.

And the team already has a sense of urgency.

“I feel like guys are starting to understand that time is ticking, and if we want to be in the NCAA tournament in March, we have to pick it up now and not later,” Carter said.

tkrausz@jg.net

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